The changes that will take place in home design during the 1980s will be the most significant "since the bathroom was moved indoors," a panel of real estate experts said recently.
"Future shelter" in America was the subject of the presentation at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference this summer in San Francisco. The panel was organized and moderated by Sanford Goodkin, chairman of the Sanford Goodkin Research Corp.
Among the changes that may be coming, according to the panel, are these:
Homes will be smaller and have fewer partitioned rooms.
They will be far more energy-efficient.
They will be closer to major employment centers and possibly part of city downtown redevelopment.
They will be much denser -- more dwelling units on a given parcel of land -- but not necessarily monolithic high-rises.
"Mega rooms" -- in essence, large multipurpose rooms -- will be the significant interior feature, with small private areas or retreats as offshoots.
Attached parking structures will lose prominence -- there will be more carports, communal parking structures or unsheltered parking bays.
Bathrooms, kitchens, stairs, storage areas -- even furnishings -- will be redesigned to accommodate the human body rather than forcing the body to adjust to the physical structure.
Shelter will remain expensive and grow even more costly. Breakthroughs in technology, materials and construction techniques that might partially reverse the housing cost spiral will not make a substantial dent until the late 1980s at the earliest.
Harvey Stearn, West Coast developer and panel member, said: "The innovation in housing designed in the years ahead will be in the attached housing sector."
Goodkin and Stearn identified these other major trends and consequences anticipated in the 1980s:
Migration to the Sun Belt states and to major cities of the Southwest and Southeast will remain a major characteristic of America's changing demography.
People's militant resistance to future growth in their communities, particularly in the Sun Belt areas, will accelerate.
Continuing shortages of energy sources and energy-intensive materials will result in ongoing cost-price spirals and periodic shortfall crises.
Pressures will be felt to reduce travel, particularly by automobile, both to conserve fuel and to protect air quality.
Housing prices, particularly in the Sun Belt, will escalate. "Home buyers and homeowners are not really against steady upward price movement -- just the opposite," Stearn said. "The investment psychology is now deeply rooted."
The makeup of the American household will dramatically change. The two-income household, characterized as a "major social revolution," will continue to grow in percentage. Despite slight increases in the childbirth rate, the size of the average household will shrink to between 2.4 and 2.7 people per dwelling; 4.2 million people will celebrate their 30th birthdays every year of the decade, and growth in both number and political power of people over age 65 will become a potent force.
Americans will spend substantially more time at home. The reasons will be to conserve fuel, shorter work weeks, revolutionary advances in personal electronics that will permit more work at home, rising costs of away-from-home entertainment and travel.